Sunday, March 3, 2013
Sufi Muslim Philosophers
I will be exploring the Sufi school of Islam.
Islam is a religion was founded (or as Muslims say, revealed unto the prophet Muhammed) in the 7th Century of the Common Era(CE) or the First century of the Hijra according to the Islamic calendar. This religion emphasises the teachings of Muhammed as the last prophet of Islam.
Sufism refers to the esoteric or inner practice of Islam and includes orthodox or schools upholding Islamic law and practice as well as other schools which place a greater emphasis on faith and dedication to saints.
In regards to Sufi practice I focus on several key figures: Ibn Arabi, Rumi, Suhrawardi.
Of these Rumi would be best considered an upholder of orthodox sufi practice in that he upheld the practice of Islamic law while also focusing on the esoteric/inner (batin/batiniyya in Arabic) understanding of Sufi Islam. He is famous throughout the West for his poetry and tolerance towards other faiths, a faith based on love of God and others.
Ibn Arabi upholds Neo-Platonic doctrines such as emanationism or cosmic principles (divine attributes and names) emanating from God to humanity. Ibn Arabi holds the theory of the qutb or pole, a powerful being or presence who guides humanity. He then refers to different abdals or saints who guide humanity. Even though Lapidus considers Ibn Arabi to stand in the middle ground (orthoprax), commitment to laws with an acceptance of gnostic (developing the personal connection to deity) practices such as meditation and similar exercises. Lapidus connects this nevertheless to the popular Islamic devotion to saints, praying at saints' tombs for blessings and guidance.
Suhrawardi impresses me in two ways: firstly: his doctrine of alam al-mithal or the Imaginal world/mundus imaginalis (in Latin) a spiritual world/plane where human beings can connect to God and gain divine understanding. It is a state comparable to the dreams we have which are felt as if they were real. Secondly, Suhrawardi takes a syncretistic approach (combining beliefs from various religions) incorporating aspects of Zoroastrian thought (the pre-Islamic religion of Iran). Suhrawardi, inherited (as did Ibn Arabi) a legacy from Ibn Sina (Avicenna, 12th Century Islamic philosopher) of emanationist, Neo-Platonic understanding incorporating hierarchies of angels (two in particular) connecting humanity to God.
Note: Neoplatonism is the school of thought appearing through the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries CE. It expands on Plato's teachings regarding morality and cosmology (relating to the formation of the universe, specifically in regards to the soul, God, etc.).
Lapidus, I (2012), Islamic Societies to the Nineteenth Century, 2nd, Cambridge University Press.